LCBO workers' union to make history with 1st-ever strike | CBC News (2024)

Thousands of Ontario liquor store employees will walk off the job Friday aftercontract negotiations between the LCBO and its workers broke down, the workers' union says.

Representatives of the Ontario Public Service EmployeesUnion (OPSEU) blamed Premier Doug Ford's government for the breakdown at a news conference Thursday evening, just hours before the midnight strike deadline it set.

"Tonight, Ford's dry summer begins," said Colleen MacLeod, chair of OPSEU's liquor board employees bargaining team.

"More than 9,000 LCBO workers will be out on strike as of 12:01 a.m."

  • Thousands of LCBO workers on strike after talks break down

The strike would be the firstin the provincial Crown corporation's history and would limit the availability of some types of alcohol, particularly wine and spirits.

The workers are seeking wage increases and more full-time jobs, saying part-time roles have become 70 per cent of their workforce.

The union also opposestheprovinces'plans to open up the alcohol market to allow convenience stores and all grocery stores to sell beer, wine and ready-to-drink co*cktails, which it says will eat into LCBO revenues and lead to job losses.

"Doug Ford just wants to make life better for his wealthy friends. That's why he's wasting upwards of a billion dollars of Ontario's money to fast-track privatized alcohol sales and hand over more public revenues generated by the LCBO over to CEOs and big box grocery and conveniencechains like Circle K and 7-11," MacLeod said.

WATCH |LCBO workers to strike Friday, union says:

Almost 10,000 LCBO workers are set to walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. Friday, after the Crown corporation failed to meet its demands, their union said. Bargaining chair Colleen MacLeod said at a news conference on Thursday that workers and the LCBO will remain at the bargaining table until a midnight deadline but aren't hopeful for a deal.

OPSEU president J.P. Hornick said the union presented a plan that would protect LCBO revenues, but its offer was rejected.

"When you buy from the LCBO, including spirit-based, ready-to-drink beverages, that's what should help build Ontario," Hornick said."The revenues from those sales should stay in public coffers."

LCBO calls for union to return to bargaining table

The LCBO, in a statement posted to its website after the news conference, urged the union to return to the bargaining table.

"The LCBO is calling on OPSEU's leadership and bargaining team to counter our latest offer and work with us to achieve a negotiated agreement and avoid a strike," the statement reads.

The LCBO said it also wanted to clarify statements made by the union at the news conference, saying: "OPSEU's leadership has made it clear numerous times at the bargaining table that they will take their 10,000 members on strike solely over their demand that the government reverse its decision to have ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages (coolers and seltzers) being available in convenience and grocery stores."

The LCBO said it tabled its latest offer at 4:20 p.m. on Thursday, addressing a numberof the union's demands. Among other things, it said it offered wage increases, conversion of about 400 casual employees to permanent full time, improved access to benefits for casual part time employees and improvements to severance provisions.

The LCBO said, in the event of a strike, its warehouses will remain "operational" and ithas plans in place to take and fulfil wholesale orders.

Province defends expansion of alcohol sales

Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy's officecriticized the union's decision to "walk away" from bargaining table and defended the government's decision to expand alcohol sales.

"We are particularly disappointed that OPSEU is opposed to giving people in Ontario the choice and convenience of buying readymade drinks, like coolers and seltzers, in grocery and convenience stores," the statement said.

WATCH |What you need to know about thepossible LCBO strike:

LCBO workers' union to make history with 1st-ever strike | CBC News (2)

Here is everything you need to know about a possible LCBO strike

5 days ago

Duration 5:17

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has set a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Friday for its approximately 10,000 workers at the LCBO. CBC’s Mike Crawley has the latest on the negotiations.

The statement urged OPSEU to return to negotiate a deal "that prioritizes Ontario consumers and producers" but, in the meantime, encouraged people across the province to shop at other retail stores that sell alcohol.

A provincial government source familiar with the negotiations said if no deal is reached, it's because the union has been "almost exclusively focused" on discussing the sale of ready-to-drink beverages and not other issues, including wages, benefits and job security.

"The government was elected twice on the commitment to expand the sale of alcoholic beverages to convenience and grocery stores, and the government is delivering on that promise," the source said.

All stores would close for 14 days, LCBO says

The LCBO has said all of its more than680locations will close for 14 days in the event of a strike.

If an agreement is reached within the 14-day closure period, it says it will "reopen stores and resume normal operations as soon as possible." Ifthe strike continues,it will open 32storesFriday through Sundaywith limited hours.

The corporation says its website and app will continue to accept orders for free home delivery forthe duration of a possible strike, but there would be "reasonable caps" on products both in store and online.Distribution to bars and restaurants would continue, and LCBOconvenience outlets in smaller communities would remain open.

LCBO workers' union to make history with 1st-ever strike | CBC News (3)

Sales would also continue at grocery stores, private wineries, breweriesand distilleries, as well as bars, restaurants and The Beer Store.

LCBOstores expanded their hours in the past week, with all stores in the province opening early at 9:30 a.m. and many stores staying open until 10 p.m. The Crown corporation says it's focused on getting a dealthat's fair to employees but also helps it "operate effectively and efficiently for Ontario in a new marketplace."

Restaurants urged to stock up

Ahead of the announcement, restaurant industry groups were advising their members to sign up for the LCBO's new online platform so they can continue to order alcohol for delivery,and to stock up.

Rocco MastrangeloJr.,owner of Cafe Diplomaticoin Toronto's Little Italy, said the possible strike comes at a bad time, citing the ongoing Euro Cup andCopaAmerica soccer tournaments.

"Little Italy is always looking forward to the summer season for patio season and we're very busy,"he saidin an interview on CBC Radio'sMetro Morning.

"We've stocked up as much as possible. I have product even sitting at home because I don't have enough room in the restaurant to hold it."

LCBO workers' union to make history with 1st-ever strike | CBC News (4)

Matt Woo, who works for a wine and spirit importer in Toronto,said he was buying alcohol for himself that isn't available at grocery stores ahead of the possible strike, including vintage wines and tequila.

"I'm an absolute snob when it comes to wines and, quite frankly, the selectionsyou can find at your local grocery stores— I'll just drink water, thank you very much," Woo said in an interview outside a downtown Toronto LCBO.

Deal could be difficult to reach given demands: expert

Over the years, unionized LCBO workers have always been able to get a deal without walking off the job, even when they've voted strongly in favour of a strike.

LCBO workers voted to strike in2005,2009,2013and2017, yet reached agreement on a contract without a strike in every one of those rounds of bargaining.

Despite thathistory of reaching deals, one expert says things could go differently this time.

Rod Phillips, a wine writer and professor at Carleton University who'sstudied the history of alcohol, said earlier Thursday he thinks a deal could be difficult to reach due to the complexity of the union'sdemands, which go beyond wages, benefits and working conditions.

"Some of the things the union wants, like rolling back privatization, is something that the LCBO can't do," Phillips said."These are government decisions."

  • LCBO strike would be 1st in Ontario liquor store's history
  • LCBO expands hours before possible strike

Phillips said the Ford government has shown itself to be "very positive" about expanding alcohol availability across the province and is unlikely to roll that back.

A strike could backfire and damage the LCBObecause of the availability of other options, Phillips said.

"One of the dangers is that if the strike goes on for very long, that people get used to going to other places, so that when the strike is over ... the business doesn't just flow back to the LCBO automatically," hesaid.

LCBO workers' union to make history with 1st-ever strike | CBC News (2024)


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